Jobs at DOC: Norm Thornley, Geospatial Services Manager

Department of Conservation —  03/10/2014

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Norm Thornley, Geospatial Services Manager.

At work

Norm Thornley and Dave Hunt in Karori Park checking a stoat trap.

Norm (kneeling) with Dave Hunt, checking a stoat trap

Some things I do in my job include:

Leading a team of geospatial professionals who provide a service right across DOC.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Providing the mapping and spatial analysis for everything—from marine protection to alpine avalanche prediction and wildfire modelling, to mention but a few.

The best bit about my job is:

The variety of the work, the professionalism of the team, and being able to contribute to conservation in a meaningful way.

The scariest DOC moment I’ve had so far was:

While on the fire line in Victoria—running to escape a burn over when a back burn breached a control on a track later name Kiwi Bacon Ridge.

Norm Thornley lighting a  controlled back burn in Victoria, Australia.

Lighting a back burn as part of a DOC deployment to Victoria

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

There are quite a few, but the ones that immediately spring to mind are Sandra Parkkali, Rene Duindam, and Martin Slimin. Their tenacity and dedication to DOC’s goals are an example to us all.

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I flew in an air force Orion out of Dunedin on a coastal surveillance mission for DOC. The object of the exercise was to capture aerial imagery of the Chatham Islands. When we got there, however, the only part that wasn’t covered in cloud was the lagoon.

My best ever holiday was:

Spending five weeks driving around Europe with Anne and our two daughters. We came away with a much better appreciation of how unique and special New Zealand is, and how privileged we are to live here.

Norm Thornley with family and friends waiting for the Motatapu mountain bike event to start.

Norm (far left), with family and friends, at the Motatapu mountain bike event

My greatest sporting moment was when:

I crossed the finish line after completing the Kepler Challenge back in 2001 with my best mate Chris.

The thing I’m most looking forward to in the next 6 months is: 

First, my daughter’s wedding, in late October. Then, in December, it’s up Arthur’s Pass to help Chris celebrate moving into his next decade.

Norm, Anne and Chris looking out of the DOC Collingwood Batch.

Looking out of the DOC Collingwood Batch

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be: 

A kea. I really love seeing the mischief they get up to and their seemingly carefree enjoyment of life.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

Winston Churchill, speaking about the battle of Britain fighter pilots and crews: “never before have so many owed so much to so few”.

Norm, Anne and Chris at the start of the Queen Charlotte Track.

Anne, Chris and Norm, ready to start a ride on the Queen Charlotte Track

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is: 

There are two ways you can read a rule book: The negative way, where if doesn’t say ‘you can’ then you can’t; or the positive way, where if doesn’t say ‘you can’t’ then you can.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Our beautiful country and the contribution working for DOC enables me to make to improving and protecting all the things I value.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is: 

Join a local conservation group. I belong to a predator trapping group, and checking the traps takes an hour and a half a month—a small price for enhancing the bird life and halo around Zealandia.

The DOC southern team during the Charleston underworld caving experience.

The DOC southern team taking the Charleston underworld caving experience

Question of the week…

Pick a scar you got in childhood and tell the story of how you got it:

That will be the tip of my right hand ring finger, which I lost to a water pump belt pulley when I was three.

2 responses to Jobs at DOC: Norm Thornley, Geospatial Services Manager


    Who dreamt up the title “geospatial”? It seems to cover all sorts of things.Well done


    interesting article, awesome effort!